Web nostalgia: MojoX::Mechanize


Some code that will probably remain a proof of concept.

Back when the web was simpler, the clients were dumb and Perl ruled as the server frontend, interfaces were IMHO more clearly defined and somehow standardized.

I mean, you knew that a form would look like more or less the same everywhere, and you were supposed to fiddle with them in a specific way.

Then of course API arrived (well… they were already present of course) and it seemed easier, because the programmer had not to fiddle with broken HTML any more, trying to figure out how to automate a web form initially designed for humans.

But this, actually, doomed the fate of this very kind of automation, where users have to jump through multiple hoops to get some job done, while not having available a simple API to automate it. Add to this that a whole lot of the processing moved client side thanks to Javascript… and your low carbs automation diet is pretty much spoiled.

From a personal point of view, while I was an eager user of WWW::Mechanize in the past, I’ve not used that any more since a long time. I still think that it takes a bit too much to install… although installing it became comparatively simple as Moose made its appearance 😂

WWW::Mechanize was, and still is, a hell of a module. At that time, I think it was as good a “programmable shell browser” as it can possibly be. It gives you easy access to the things that matter in the page (programmatically speaking, at least): navigation, download of content, handling of forms.

Today, I guess that forms have been mostly obsoleted as a technology, or at least heavily reduced their footprint. That’s why I probably don’t use it too much any more.

On the other hand… I was curious to see if there was anything similar leveraging on Mojo::UserAgent and, in general, Mojolicious. My search did not yield meaningful results.

So… I decided to give it a try, and came up with a proof of concept. It currently only does navigation and links filtering/selection, but it works. My stab at it is available here. It will probably remain like this - as I said, there’s much less need today for this kind of modules IMHO - but it’s been interesting and fun! Here’s the example code, embedded modulino style:

exit sub {

   my $ua = MojoX::Mechanize->new;
   say $ua->url;
   say $ua->url;
   say $ua->url;

   say '-' x 20;

   say $ua->success;
   say $ua->url;

   say '-' x 20;
   say $_ for $ua->find_all_links(url_abs_regex => qr{xmech});

   say $ua->find_link(url_abs_regex => qr{xmech}, n => 2)->to_abs;

   say "\nfollowing link to sibling";
   $ua->follow_link(url_regex => qr{sibling});
   say $ua->url;
   say $ua->body;
  } ->(@ARGV) unless caller;

The fun thing is that I didn’t even touch upon forms (yet, if ever); so far, anyway, it seems that the tools in Mojolicious are pretty up to the expectations.

Stay safe everyone!

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